UK Issues Immigration Proposals for EEA and Swiss Nationals in Case of No-Deal Brexit

January 30, 2019

The UK government has published a policy paper setting out proposals for European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals if the United Kingdom and European Union do not reach a withdrawal agreement by March 29, 2019.

The UK prime minister’s withdrawal agreement was rejected by the UK parliament on 15 January 2019 and as a result, the UK government and EU member states have begun to set out their contingency plans in case a deal is not reached. If the UK government adopts the proposals, they would need to be accepted by the UK parliament and be implemented into UK law before they could take effect.

The proposals set out that if a deal is not reached, only EEA and Swiss nationals who arrive in the United Kingdom prior to Brexit will be able to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme (details of which are set out in our previous LawFlash). EEA and Swiss nationals arriving in the United Kingdom after Brexit between 30 March 2019 and 31 December 2020 will be able to enter and leave the United Kingdom as they do now, using e-gates when travelling on a biometric passport. But they will be required to either

  1. stay in the United Kingdom for a maximum of three months for visits, work, or study. This initial three-month leave to enter will be free of charge; or
  2. apply for a status called European Temporary Leave to Remain, which will allow a stay of up to 36 months. This is a temporary, non-extendable leave and a fee (to be determined) would be payable on application.

EEA and Swiss nationals who are granted European Temporary Leave will not be given indefinite leave to remain (ILR), nor will this lead to status under the EU Settlement Scheme or will they be permitted to stay in the United Kingdom indefinitely.

Irish citizens would not need to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain and would continue to have rights to live and work in the United Kingdom.

If at the end of the 36-month period an EEA or Swiss nationals intend to stay in the United Kingdom beyond the initial period granted, they would need to apply for immigration status under the new immigration system which is due to come into force on 1 January 2021. Those who do not qualify will need to leave the United Kingdom when their European Temporary Leave to Remain expires.

Non-EEA national family members of EEA nationals in the United Kingdom would need to apply for a family permit before accompanying or joining their EEA relative post-Brexit.

Impact on Employers

The prospect of a no-deal Brexit will be unsettling for existing employees and will create extra complications for those entering the United Kingdom after Brexit. Employers should

  • audit the immigration status of their workforce to help plan for change;
  • identify EEA and Swiss nationals working in the United Kingdom;
  • identify UK nationals working elsewhere in the European Union;
  • review long-term recruitment and succession planning and proposed secondment and rotations;
  • decide as a business how to support applications and how much they are able to invest in the process;
  • plan employee communications and provide information to employees on the current application process and the proposed changes;
  • communicate key application deadlines and advise employees on what needs to be done and when;
  • encourage employees to obtain confirmation of their rights by applying under the EU Settlement Scheme; and
  • review current right to work procedure to ensure that they are prepared for the implication of the widening of the current “right to work” regime.


If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this alert, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:

Jennifer Connolly
Yvette Allen